You know an election is in the wind when the well-worn public vs private school story appears in the tabloid press and as fodder for radio shock-jocks. According to an article this week, the success of public schools in HSC and NAPLAN tests was partly responsible for an increase in enrolments.
It follows the SMH on Monday which quotes Chris Bonner, former president of the Secondary Principals Council and Richard Teese from the University of Melbourne.
They believe selective schools drain talent from surrounding comprehensive schools, which leads to an ‘academic and cultural apartheid’.
While I support Professor Teese’s argument that the aim of education is to have ‘high standards everywhere’ not just in one pocket of any system, I don’t agree with headlines like ‘academic apartheid’.
The greatest challenge facing education systems here and overseas is improving the standard of teaching and teacher quality. Success should not be judged on the number of students enrolled but as Professor Teese argues – the quality of learning and teaching.
In practice, comprehensive schools should be doing what selective schools are – offering students opportunities to excel in their natural abilities and providing a diverse range of subjects and pathways for success.
Every student has the potential to learn and to love learning – it takes the right conditions as Ken Robinson says to bring this out of every child.
We should be celebrating and supporting academic and cultural diversity in every school not looking for ways to homogenise it.